Salvation Army launches its earliest ever holiday donation campaign

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Salvation Army is launching its annual holiday donation campaign earlier than ever before in its 130-year history because of the increasing request for assistance. With everything else in the pandemic, that too will look different.

The red kettle campaign started in San Francisco in 1891, will rely heavily on digital donations this year with only half as many of the iconic red kettles expected to be out at malls and storefronts.

The Army is hoping the Bay Area will help lead the trend once again this time with digital donations.

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"Unfortunately, we have less locations to work from this year so we're hoping the digital platforms will really help us sustain and to raise the money necessary," said Major Ivan Wild of the Salvation Army.

The reduced number of red kettles is a response to a decrease in foot traffic at area malls and some businesses playing it safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, opting not to host a bellringer outside of their store.

The changes come at a time when more families in Northern California are burdened by COVID related debt, job loss, and historic wildfires that have displaced many.

A press release by the Army said the organization expects to help 155 percent more people this year with food assistance, paying bills, shelter, and helping place gifts under the Christmas tree.

The Army said it helped more than 36,000 people in need during last year's holiday season.

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You will still be able to drop cash in the kettle if you see a bell ringer out and about. The Army said kettles will be disinfected between cash donations and you will also be able to use contactless pay options like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

The Salvation Army is accepting donations online now at rescue.gosalarmy.org or by texting "KETTLES" to 91999.

The organization is also encouraging people who are able to sign up for a monthly gift of $25 and enlist in "Love's Army."

You can even donate by using Amazon's Alexa. All you have to do is say "Alexa donate to the Salvation Army" and then tell the device how much you'd like to give.

"We're seeing a lot of families or individuals that have never actually come for this type of service and so they don't even know sometimes where to begin," said Major Wild.

If you are in need of assistance as the holiday season approaches, visit GoSalArmy.org to get started.

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